14. The Events Of Five Weeks
1. FROM THE SIXTH TO THE THIRTEENTH OF JANUARY
Manston had evidently resolved to do nothing in a hurry.
This much was plain, that his earnest desire and intention was to raise in
Cytherea's bosom no feelings of permanent aversion to him. The instant after the
first burst of disappointment had escaped him in the hotel at Southampton, he
had seen how far better it would be to lose her presence for a week than her
respect for ever.
'She shall be mine; I will claim the young thing yet,' he insisted. And then he
seemed to reason over methods for compassing that object, which, to all those
who were in any degree acquainted with the recent event, appeared the least
likely of possible contingencies.
He returned to Knapwater late the next day, and was preparing to call on Miss
Aldclyffe, when the conclusion forced itself upon him that nothing would be
gained by such a step. No; every action of his should be done openly--even
religiously. At least, he called on the rector, and stated this to be his resolve.
'Certainly,' said Mr. Raunham, 'it is best to proceed candidly and fairly, or undue
suspicion may fall on you. You should, in my opinion, take active steps at once.'
'I will do the utmost that lies in my power to clear up the mystery, and silence the
hubbub of gossip that has been set going about me. But what can I do? They say
that the man who comes first in the chain of inquiry is not to be found--I mean the
'I am sorry to say that he is not. When I returned from the station last night, after
seeing Owen Graye off, I went again to the cottage where he has been lodging,
to get more intelligence, as I thought. He was not there. He had gone out at dusk,
saying he would be back soon. But he has not come back yet.'
'I rather doubt if we shall see him again.'
'Had I known of this, I would have done what in my flurry I did not think of doing--
set a watch upon him. But why not advertise for your missing wife as a
preliminary, consulting your solicitor in the meantime?'
'Advertise. I'll think about it,' said Manston, lingering on the word as he
pronounced it. 'Yes, that seems a right thing--quite a right thing.'
He went home and remained moodily indoors all the next day and the next--for
nearly a week, in short. Then, one evening at dusk, he went out with an uncertain
air as to the direction of his walk, which resulted, however, in leading him again
to the rectory.
He saw Mr. Raunham. 'Have you done anything yet?' the rector inquired.
'No--I have not,' said Manston absently. 'But I am going to set about it.' He
hesitated, as if ashamed of some weakness he was about to betray. 'My object in
calling was to ask if you had heard any tidings from Budmouth of my--Cytherea.
You used to speak of her as one you were interested in.'
There was, at any rate, real sadness in Manston's tone now, and the rector
paused to weigh his words ere he replied.